Tinder CEO being sued for sexual harassment by ex-executive — again
Tinder's in the "Me Too" hot-seat; it's been there before.
The CEO of Tinder is being sued by a former employee, who he pounced on like a bonobo in heat at an office holiday party in 2016. And when the employee tried to report the incident the next year, she was promptly fired.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this is not the first time something like this has happened at Tinder, though it is certainly the most recent.
At the time of this encounter, Rosette Pambakian was the vice president of marketing and communications at the swipe-happy hook-up app, where she’d been working for four years. She helped the app grow into the beast it’s become over that time, finding new ways to market flirtatiously, and sell hookup sex to horny teens and adults.
She was enjoying herself at the party, doing holiday party things (whatever that entails at a Tinder office party), when her boss, the CEO of the company and a known office-bully, started coming onto her. And not so subtly.
“I get hard every time I look at you,” he allegedly told her. “Let’s get out of here.”
Not surprisingly, that made things awkward for Pambakian, who did decid to GTFO of there — except without Blatt. She took off and went up to a hotel room the company had rented for their employees for the night, with two other Tinder employees: a friend of hers and Blatt’s executive assistant. But the strange encounter was far from over.
Blatt apparently found them somehow and when he knocked on the hotel room door, his executive assistant let the horny bastard in.
Without hesitation Blatt apparently made a beeline for Pambakian, who was sitting on the bed. He grabbed her, pulled her down so she was laying beside him and started groping her breasts, kissing her neck and running his hand up her thighs. All while the other two Tinder employees stood beside them, watching uncomfortably.
Understandably, Pambakian was jangled by the strange incident. Blatt “profusely apologized” the next day. Then, shortly afterwards, the parent companies of Tinder (Match Group and IAC) offered her a raise. If she signed a non-disclosure agreement about the incident; legally agreeing to never discuss Blatt’s sloppy advance publicly.
She did not take the raise. And she did report Blatt.
Which was the end for her, at Tinder. Pambakian was promptly fired from the company, according to the lawsuit she recently filed. It was the cherry on top of the shit sundae: punishment for … her boss’ inability to control his own horny urges? Having the courage to report him?
Something like that. Anyway, Pambakian is now suing Blatt, Match Group and IAC for an undisclosed (and likely colossal) amount of money for “negligence, wrongful termination, sexual battery, gender violence and retaliation.”
If she wins, she won’t probably have to work ever again.
The companies, however, do not seem too worried about Pambakian’s lawsuits. They wrote in a statement:
“The Match Group Board — with the assistance of experienced outside counsel from two nationally recognized law firms — promptly conducted a careful and thorough investigation under the direction of independent Board members, concluded, among other things, that there was no violation of law or company policy, and took appropriate action.”
This isn’t the first time that Tinder has been challenged with claims of sexual harassment. In 2014 the app's co-founder and former VP of marketing (the same job Pambakian later took) also sued the company for sexual harassment and discrimination.
The defendant in that case, Whitney Wolfe, apparently had her title of co-founder stripped, after she became romantically involved with her boss, Justin Mateen, the CMO of Tinder at the time. Mateen and CEO, Sean Rad didn’t like the look of having a female co-founder, said it “devalued” the company, and demoted her.
Then when her romance with Mateen broke down, he started publicly insulting her at meetings, calling her a “whore,” a “desperate loser,” and making claims that she was an alcoholic.
None of these people are at Tinder anymore — Pambakian, Blatt, Wolfe, Mateen or Rad. Not because of any punitive action for all this sexual harassment and gender bias, it’s important to note. But because these wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneurs just moved on; they left Tinder to pursue other techy ventures.
That’s the kind of closure that seems to define these Silicon Valley scandals: shit happens, people get sued, someone wins a lot of money, everyone fucks off and no one learns anything from the whole ordeal.
So it goes. But if there’s any worthwhile take-away we can leave this wierd story with, it’s probably that "swiping left" is a lot easier to do in an app than it is in real life at an office holiday party; and rejection is a much easier pill to swallow when it isn’t in person.